Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Upholds Tobacco Ban for Gen Z

Boston suburb of Brookline bans sale of tobacco products to anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 2000
Gen Z smoking
Photograph: Shutterstock

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) last week upheld a law in the Boston suburb of Brookline that bans the sale of tobacco products to anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 2000.

In 2020, Brookline voted to ban sales to those born this century but local store owners, including convenience stores filed a lawsuit challenging the ban. Six Brothers Inc. v. Town of Brookline argued the policy is preempted by state law, but in 2022, the case was thrown out.

Since 2018, under a Massachusetts law, anyone under the age of 21 is banned from purchasing in the state any tobacco product including e-cigarettes, cigars and cigarettes.

Proponents of the the gradual phaseout of tobacco sales based on birthdate include Laurent Huber, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, who said in a statement: today's decision signals that we've moved from mitigating the death and disease from tobacco to ending it.

The New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association Inc. (NECSEMA) meanwhile said it is examining all legal options to protect its members’ rights and civil liberties in the commonwealth.

NECSEMA issued the following statement to CSP regarding Brookline’s nicotine free generation bylaw:

The SJC has careened down a slippery slope by affirming Brookline’s ban on all nicotine product purchases by all adults born this century. We are reviewing the ruling, but it is clearly rooted in authoritarianism by supporting the legal idea that there is no such thing as an adult with inalienable rights unless those rights are first granted to a citizen by government.

The ruling sets a disturbing precedent by granting authority to local boards of health to decide who is “adult enough” to make decisions, regardless of what state or federal laws say on the issue. The SJC decision says that local officials, whether elected or appointed, can now ban products that they don’t agree with, ignore the state legislature and create their own arbitrary bans.

 You may not use any tobacco or nicotine product, so you may think that this decision won’t impact you. Perhaps it won’t, yet.  Eventually, though, the zealots will take aim at something that you, as an adult, have reached the “legal age” to enjoy.

The SJC has decided a 50, 60, or 70-year old cannot choose to purchase tobacco or nicotine. What products are next?

 NECSEMA and our partners are examining all legal options to protect our members’ rights and the civil liberties of the citizens of Massachusetts.

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